Friday, November 04, 2011

A congregation dialogues on Facebook about the revised common lectionary and the narrative lectionary

I recently posted a survey on our congregational Facebook group page.  I asked:

"Curious. Currently we follow the lectionary, which means the lessons assigned each week, including readings from the Old Testament, epistles, and gospels. How many of us want to keep this, verses how many of us would be interested in a "narrative" lectionary where we simply preached and read our way consecutively through the bible, from beginning to end. For example, if we started with Genesis in January of 2012 and ended with Revelation in December of 2013. Two years straight through the bible."

The response was energetic, I think more posts in the conversation than any we have had in recent memory. Altogether, I think they offer a healthy survey of where a church like ours is at on the function of the revised common lectionary in our common life, the wisdom of switching, and perceptions of Scripture in worship. I offer the dialogue here:

Responses: 13 votes to keep the RCL, 4 votes for a narrative straight through the bible approach, and one vote for a topical approach.

  • Member: Can I choose all of the above? I like the idea of working through the Bible, but then throwing in topical where appropriate or needed.
    23 hours ago ·  ·  1

  • Clint Schnekloth I think topics arise in any of the approaches above, yes, but this is more of a question of what texts from scripture would be read each Sunday.
    23 hours ago · 
  • Member #2: I like the lectionary!!! Let's keep it.
    23 hours ago ·  ·  2
  • Member #1: Complained that I voted for the narrative lectionary AND the RCL in the survey. :)

  • Clint Schnekloth I can have my cake and eat it too. I have been in a discussion with a group of church leaders who are trying out a new model call the "narrative lectionary." I find the idea compelling, because it walks the community through the bigger stories of Scripture rather than jumping around as the lectionary does. However, I also like the lectionary because it connects us with all other churches following the lectionary. If you're curious about the narrative lectionary, here's a link:
    The web's most helpful and downright coolest resource for preachers. Free exeget...See More

    22 hours ago ·  · 
  • Member #3:  I like the idea of both the lectionary (the familiar and connection with other churches) but the bigger picture of a narrative lectionary also appeals. I guess having one traditional service be a lectionary service and the other traditional service take a narrative approach would be too involved and not practical.
    22 hours ago · 

  • Member #4 (who introduced a different topic into the thread): FacebookPC, I would enjoy an opportunity to visit with you regarding the broad concept of why the the Lutheran church in America is continuing to witness steady declines in membership. Thoughts?
    22 hours ago via  · 
  • Member #1: I'm with you, PC. I want both.
    22 hours ago · 

  • Clint Schnekloth I think I have three pretty straightforward answers to why we are declining in membership. The first is cultural... the whole Christian church in America is declining in membership. The only exceptions are the denominations that are having a very large influx of immigrants (like the Roman Catholics), or have many children (Mormon, to a certain degree Southern Baptist, although even the Southern Baptists are now seeing a decline).

    There are only two denominations who are going against this trend of decline, and those are the Evangelical Covenant Church, and the Mormons. Both of those churches have built into their DNA multiplication of churches, and training of all members for discipleship and mission. The Covenant church has an approach that every congregation is a church-planting church, and every member is a mission developer.

    So, the first is that we are part of a larger trend, what some are calling the "great contraction." The second reason we are seeing steady decline in membership is that we have more members dying than we have babies being born. So it is a biological issue.

    The third reason we are declining is that we have not been as clear as we could be about sharing the gospel with our neighbors and inviting them into community with us. We also simply aren't going out to be with those who are different from us. It's about mission. That is more difficult in the concrete than in the abstract.

    22 hours ago via  · 
  • Member #6: The lectionary is what makes us connected around the globe, knowing that everywhere and in every tongue, Lutherans, Catholics, and Anglicans (I think they all follow the same lectionary) are hearing and pondering the same scripture. What's the point of a church body being affiliated with an ancient worldwide ecclesiastical network if you are going to just pick and choose which parts of the liturgy to follow and which to disregard?
    22 hours ago · 
  • Member #7: Rodney Dangerfield on this one. I like both approaches although ther narrative lectionary is appealing. I feel our greatest problem in the Church is finding a way to appeal to the younger adults/youth. If we don't, we may become irrelavant. For the last 3 weeks, I have visited ELCA churches in Arizona, and I was struck on the lack of young people attending the service. I feel that our Contemporary Service goes a long way in bridging that issue.
    22 hours ago ·  ·  1
  • Member #2: I don't know if it is solely a "style of worship" issue. We had 3 young single people all join our church this last go around and all three regularly attend traditional worship - Looking to connect with or rekindle their Lutheran roots. I think we are not very good at sharing what the ELCA has to offer as far as a message to those who were not raised Lutheran.
    22 hours ago ·  ·  2
  • Member #2: I will say that I am glad we have both styles of worship. I do find it funny that my kids who drive and are given a choice as to which to attend agree to wake up and go to 8:00 traditional.
    22 hours ago ·  ·  1
  • Member #2: Oh - I will say if we did use a straight through the bible approach we would get to hear some excellent Old Testament stories. Like Judges 4:21! I don't think I have heard that story read or preached on.
    22 hours ago · 
  • Member #8: I love the idea of being connected with the worldwide church, but think I could accomplish that on my own by reading the lectionary (perhaps as family devotions?). I would love to experience the narrative style and read and study straight through the Bible. I think when we returned to the lectionary style 2 years down the road, those readings might seem less disjointed.
    21 hours ago ·  ·  2

  • Member #9: Oh - I will say if we did use a straight through the bible approach we would get to hear some excellent Old Testament stories. Like Judges 4:21! I don't think I have heard that story read or preached on.
  • One thing that amuses me about the lectinoary is the sanitizing of the more salacious details, inevitably. Gets me thinking about how 2 years through the Bible might read in advance press about GSLC
    20 hours ago · 
  • Member #4: FacebookPc, I understand your 3 versed response. However, what might require further exploration is the explosive introduction and success of "alternative" neighborhood non denominational churching. Their growth with membership appears acceptable to many of the population segment. Bottom line: Perhaps the fertility/biological/cultural limitations of traditional denominational membership are now permitting non traditional, locally managed, church organizations to fill in the vacuum you suggest. They appear to being providing acceptable alternatives to the "mainline" churches. Comments? 
    20 hours ago via  · 
  • Member #1: I always think the same thing. The lectionary leaves out some of the stranger and, as you say, salacious bits of the Bible.
    19 hours ago · 
  • Member #10: The Lectionary Series does go thru the Bible (especially in the Gospel; see the ELCA website or our Hymnal) and also gives the Old Testament, New Testament & Psalm (realizing that CW does not use all of these). I think as Lutherans/Protestants we are unique in using all parts of the Bible in Worship. Altho, I also periodically enjoy a Topic Series. I must ask how the "Working Preacher" reads the entire Bible when is states: "beginning in Genesis around the start of September and culminating with the promise of the Messiah during December (Advent)." That's a LOT of Bible/sermon preaching in 4 months.
    19 hours ago ·  ·  1
  • Member #2: I think the lectionary is also a little light on women of the bible.
    19 hours ago ·  ·  1
  • But although I don't think it is perfect - I still would stick with it.
    19 hours ago · 

  • Clint Schnekloth I like that there are so many reflections on this topic. Thanks for all the responses so far! Very thoughtful.
    19 hours ago via  · 

  • Member #2: Did anyone look up Judges 4:21? Just curious.
    19 hours ago ·  ·  1

  • Clint Schnekloth To the mini-thread started by earlier: Yes, some of those churches are growing exponentially, but they aren't having an overall impact on the growth of the Christian church in America. So there are two separate issues. First, attendance seems to be shifting to these larger churches, but it isn't producing overall growth.

    For my money, I want to learn from those churches on what they are doing right, and duplicate some of those strategies at GSLC in order to grow, while also not buying into some of the theological presuppositions that attend their form of church life. :)

    19 hours ago via  ·  ·  1

  • Member #5: Also, Pastor Clint, to follow up on the pros and cons of "that kind" of church (and also tie in with the original topic) they tend to be VERY personality driven by their clergy, and attendees are as much "followers" of the minister as they are members of the church, so when the minister leaves, members start changing churches in droves, etc. Not that you don't want your own groupies, but I'm sure that you are a Lutheran in part because of your respect for what the church stands for historically and institutionally, and because of the ecumenical feel of that shared liturgy circling the globe (of which the lectionary is but part). I feel that ecumenical worldwide connection whenever I say the Lord's Prayer or dip a finger into the baptismal font, too.
    18 hours ago ·  ·  1

  • Clint Schnekloth I think the designers of the narrative lectionary are trying to address your concerns, Julie, by inviting a community of congregations to do the narrative lectionary together, rather than it being something one church does alone. Also, periodically the committee on the lectionary does think through re-designs, so this is all part of the on-going dialogue. For example, right now we follow the "Revised Common Lectionary" which means it was revised from the "Common Lectionary." Some groups still go with the "Common Lectionary" which means we aren't actually in sync with everyone every Sunday. There are slightly different lectionaries in the RC, Episcopal, and Methodist communions.

    I know that is as clear as mud, but what it does mean is that the lectionary is a living tradition that is modified over time, and open to critique and discussion. It isn't set in stone. Personally, I see some strengths of the narrative approach they are offering. It still allows for observation of Advent through Easter, and then goes to a narrative the other 9 months. The problem is that you lose the diversity of readings that are read each Sunday in churches that do an OT, epistle, and gospel every Sunday...

    18 hours ago · 

  • Clint Schnekloth And the big question people who are designing these narrative lectionaries are asking is, "Do we, as people of faith, know the grand 'metanarrative' of Scripture, the big story, and does having a lectionary that chops the bible up into readings that jump around contribute to or take away from our grasping the story as a whole?" What do you think?
    17 hours ago · 

  • Member #6: I love the thematic readings and the mix of OT, Psalm, Epistle, Gospel. It doesn't seem disjointed but illustrative of the foreshadowing and follow-through. I suppose we miss out on Proverbs and Song of Solomon and all the names in Kings.
    16 hours ago · 

  • Member #2: The Bible doesn't read as a "story" in a beginning to end way. There are many stories, and poems, histories, allegories... Sometimes even within a single "book". As a book it is somewhat disjointed. I do agree there are some books that get missed. But maybe with good reason?
    16 hours ago · 

  • Clint Schnekloth For those interested, the lectionary is basically designed like this: first, a gospel is selected for each Sunday of the church year. This is a three year cycle, the first year primarily readings from Matthew, the second year from Mark, the third year from Luke. John is woven in over the three years.

    These readings are selected to narrate the "big moments" of Christ's life, especially including Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter. During the season after Pentecost, the readings are basically continuous through the middle section of whatever gospel is the focus for that year.

    The Old Testament lessons are designed to "match" the gospel reading for the day. This is sometimes thematic, or the OT lesson is actually quoted in the gospel, etc. This is why sometimes OT lessons are repeated, and it is also why although we read the OT in worship every Sunday, very large sections of the OT are never read in worship.

    The second lesson is from the epistles (with the exception of the Easter season, when the first lesson is from Acts, and the second lesson is from Revelation). These readings do not match the gospel or OT (except during the main holidays), but are instead "lectio continua," meaning we read straight through an epistle before moving on to the next one.

    At the end of three years, if you have been in worship every single Sunday, you have heard a majority of the gospels read out loud, a good portion of the epistles, and perhaps about 1/3 of the Old Testament.

    Having participated in this dialogue, which I loved, I have decided we are unequivocally sticking with the Revised Common Lectionary.

No comments:

Post a Comment